On Friday 4 March 2016, the Environment Council held a public debate on the Circular Economy Action Plan. Member States’ statements focused on three questions prepared by the Netherlands Presidency. Delegations were asked to identify which actions proposed by the Commission should be prioritised, what measures could be taken by Member States to promote the transition to a circular economy and to present what type of governance should be set up, in addition to the announced monitoring framework.
The debate was opened by the Netherlands Presidency who explained that the outcome of both the discussions of the Competitiveness Council on Monday 29 February 2016 and Environment Ministers will feed into the work on the Environment Council Conclusions on the Action Plan. The document is to be adopted in June 2016.
Afterwards, Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment and Maritime Affairs, briefly introduced the Action Plan, noting that all Member States need to make efforts to enable the transition to a circular economy. The latter embraces targeted green investments and new business models that will be supported by a stable policy framework.
Ministers welcomed the Action Plan. Member States tend to agree that its focus should be placed on developing a secondary raw materials market, encouraging eco-design measures and ensuring the use of the Green Public Procurement.
When it comes to the legislative proposals on waste, Eastern European countries would like these to be awarded a greater policy flexibility to achieve the targets. Luxembourg would like to focus on plastic waste reduction, while Sweden and France would like to prioritise marine litter reduction and phase out microplastics used by the cosmetics industry. Some countries, including Sweden and Finland, highlighted that the waste legislation should not contradict other policies such as the chemicals legislation. There was also agreement on the need to fight food waste. Action on EPR schemes should be taken at the EU level, according to France.
Member States would be willing to increase exchange of best practices and take initiatives aimed at raising citizens’ awareness. They stressed importance of additional fiscal and economic incentives to support the industry to transition to a circular economy.
On the governance model, ministers asked for new indicators and benchmarks to be development in order to monitor the progress that was made. The results could be a part of the European Semester or be regularly reported and discussed by the Environment Council. However, it was stressed that this should be done without creating any further administrative burden on Member States.